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talked like a race-horse approaching the winning post, every muscle in action, and the utmost energy of expression flung out in every burst. Victor Hugo and his extraordinary novels came next under discussion; and Disraeli, who was fired with his own eloquence, started off, apropos des bottes, with a long story of impalement he had seen in Upper Egypt. It was as good, and perhaps as authentic, as the description of the chow-chow-tow in “Vivian Grey. The circumstantiality of the account was equally horrible and amusing. Then followed the sufferer's history, with a score of murders and barbarities heaped together like Martin's feast of Belshazzar, with a mixture of horror and splendour that was unparalleled in my experience of improvisation. No mystic priest of the corybantes could have worked himself up into a finer frenzy of language.”
My recollection of the scene to which I think Mr. Willis alludes, is of a very different kind so far as relates to the impression of horror supposed to be made by the truly extraordinary powers of description of Mr. Disraeli.
Haydon, in his diary, 27th February, 1835, writes, “Went to Lady Blessington's in the evening; everybody goes to Lady Blessington. She has the first news of everything, and everybody seems delighted to tell her. No woman will be more missed. She is the centre of more talent and gaiety than any other woman of fashion in London."*
In the summer of 1833, Lady Blessington met with a severe loss. Her house in Seamore Place was broken into at night by thieves, and plate and jewellery to the value of about £1000, were carried off, and never afterwards recovered. This was the first disaster, in the way of loss of property, that occurred to her. A few years later, she was destined to see every thing swept away she was accustomed to set a store on, every object of luxury that had become a neces* Memoirs of B. R. Haydon, vol. iii. p. 12.
sity to the splendid misery of her mode of life ; costly furniture, magnificent mirrors, adornments of salons, valuable pictures, portraits by the first masters, all the literary baubles of the boudoir, and precious ornaments of the person, rarities from every land, books elegantly bound, and perhaps more prized than all her other treasures.
Lady Blessington removed from Seamore Place to the more spacious and elegant mansion of Gore House, Kensington Gore, the former abode of William Wilberforce, in the early part of 1836. And here her Ladyship remained till the 14th of April
Any person acquainted with Lady Blessington, when residing at the Villa Belvidere at Naples, the Palazzo Negrone at Rome, her delightful residence at Seamore Place in London, and her latest English place of abode, in Gore House, must have observed the remarkable changes that had come over her mind at the different epochs of her career in intellectual society and in fashionable life, from 1823 to 1849.
In Naples, the charm of Lady Blessington's conversation and society was indescribably effective. The genial air, the beautiful scenery of the place, and all the “influences of the sweet south,” seemed to have delighted, soothed, and spiritualized her feelings. A strong tendency to fastidiousness of taste, to weariness of mind in the enjoyment of any long continued entertainment or amusement, to sudden impulses of hastiness of temper (as distinguished from habitual ill-humour), had been subdued and softened by those changes of scenery and “skiey influences ;” and above all, there was observable in her animal spirits a flow of hilarity, a natural vivacity, such as those who knew her in early life, were well aware had belonged to her childhood, and which having been restrained and checked to some extent, had resumed, in the south of Italy, its original character of out-bursting gaité du cour. The ringing laugh of joyous girlhood, which a celebrated actress used to act to such perfection, was a reality with Lady Blessington, in those merry moods of hers in Naples, which were indeed neither “ few nor far between.”
In society Lady Blessington was then supremely attractive; she was natural and sprightly, and spirituelle in proportion to her naturalness, and utter absence of all appearance of an effort to be effective in conversation.
At the distance of a period of three years from the time of my departure from Naples, when I next met Lady Blessington at Rome, that vivacity to which I have referred, seemed to me to have been considerably impaired. She had become more of a learned lady, a queen regnant in literary circles, expected to speak with authority on subjects of art and literature, and less of the agreeable woman, eminently graceful, and full of gaiety, whom I had parted with in Naples in 1824. But she was at all times attractive and triumphant in her efforts to reign in the society she moved in; and she was, moreover, at all times kindly disposed and faithful in her friendships.
After an interval of nearly five years, I renewed my acquaintance with Lady Blessington in Seamore Place. It was evident that another great “change had come over the spirit of her dream" of life since I had last seen her. Cares and troubles, and trials of various kinds, had befallen her, and left, if not visible external traces, at least perceptible internal evidence of their effects.
After a lapse of two or three years, my acquaintance with Lady Blessington was renewed at Gore House. The new establishment was on a scale of magnificence exceeding even that of Seamore Place.
The brilliant society by which she was surrounded, did not seem to have contributed much to her felicity. There was no happiness in the circles of Gore House, comparable to
that of the Palazzo Belvidere in Naples. There was manifestly a great intellectual effort made to keep up the charm of that society, and no less manifest was it that a great pecuniary effort was making to meet the large expenditure of her new establishment. That society was felt by her to be a necessity in England. It had been a luxury in Italy, and had been enjoyed there without anxiety for cost, or any experience of the wear and tear of life that is connected with arduous exertions to maintain a position in London haut ton society, acquired with difficulty, and often supported under continually increasing embarrassments.
But notwithstanding the symptoms of care and anxiety that were noticeable in Lady Blessington's appearance and conversation, at that period of her Gore House celebrity, her powers of attraction and of pleasing had lost none of their influences. There were a higher class of men of great intellect at her soirées, than were formerly wont to congregate about her. Lady Blessington no longer spoke of books and bookish men with diffidence, or any marked deference for the opinions of other persons : she laid down the law of her own sentiments in conversation rather dogmatically, she aimed more at saying smart things than heretofore, and seemed more desirous of congregating celebrities of distinction in her salons, than of gathering round her people solely for the agremens of their society or any peculiarities in their characters or acquirements.
There was more of gravity and formality in her conversationès than there had been wont to be, and the conversation generally was no longer of that peculiarly gay, enlivening, cheerful character, abounding in drollery and humour, which made the great charm of her réunions in the Villa Belvidere, and in a minor degree in Seamore Place.
In Gore House society, Lady Blessington had given herself a mission, in whieh she laboured certainly with great assiduity and wonderful success—that of bringing together people of the same pursuits, who were rivals in them, for professional distinction ; and inclining competitors for fame in politics, art, and literature, to tolerant, just, and charitable opinions of one another. This most assuredly was a very good and noble object, and in her efforts to attain it she was well seconded by Count D'Orsay.
The Count, indeed, not only devoted his talents to this object, but extended his aims to the accomplishment of a purpose calculated to do a great deal of good; to remove the groundless misapprehensions of unacquainted intellectual people of neighbouring countries, the fruitful cause of national jealousies and antipathies; to remove the prejudices which had raised barriers even in the best societies between English people and foreigners, to level distinctions on account of difference of country, and to unite the high intelligences of various nations in bonds of social intercourse.
The party warfare that is waged in art, literature, and politics, it seemed to be the main object of the mistress of Gore House, in the high sphere in which she moved, to assuage, to put an end to, and when interrupted, to prevent the recurrence of. It was astonishing with what tact that object was pursued; and those only who have seen much of the correspondence of Lady Blessington, can form any idea of the labour she imposed on herself in removing unfavourable impressions, explaining away differences, inducing estranged people to make approaches to an accommodation, to meet and to be reconciled. These labours were not confined to people of the studio, or of literary pursuits ; grave politicians, and solemn statesmen, great legal functionaries, and even divines, have been largely indebted to them. She threw herself into those labours with an earnestness which seemed almost incredible to those who were accustomed to the reserve and absence of all demonstra